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1.  Rapid sympatric ecological differentiation of crater lake cichlid fishes within historic times 
BMC Biology  2010;8:60.
After a volcano erupts, a lake may form in the cooled crater and become an isolated aquatic ecosystem. This makes fishes in crater lakes informative for understanding sympatric evolution and ecological diversification in barren environments. From a geological and limnological perspective, such research offers insight about the process of crater lake ecosystem establishment and speciation. In the present study we use genetic and coalescence approaches to infer the colonization history of Midas cichlid fishes (Amphilophus cf. citrinellus) that inhabit a very young crater lake in Nicaragua-the ca. 1800 year-old Lake Apoyeque. This lake holds two sympatric, endemic morphs of Midas cichlid: one with large, hypertrophied lips (~20% of the total population) and another with thin lips. Here we test the associated ecological, morphological and genetic diversification of these two morphs and their potential to represent incipient speciation.
Gene coalescence analyses [11 microsatellite loci and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequences] suggest that crater lake Apoyeque was colonized in a single event from the large neighbouring great lake Managua only about 100 years ago. This founding in historic times is also reflected in the extremely low nuclear and mitochondrial genetic diversity in Apoyeque. We found that sympatric adult thin- and thick-lipped fishes occupy distinct ecological trophic niches. Diet, body shape, head width, pharyngeal jaw size and shape and stable isotope values all differ significantly between the two lip-morphs. The eco-morphological features pharyngeal jaw shape, body shape, stomach contents and stable isotopes (δ15N) all show a bimodal distribution of traits, which is compatible with the expectations of an initial stage of ecological speciation under disruptive selection. Genetic differentiation between the thin- and thick-lipped population is weak at mtDNA sequence (FST = 0.018) and absent at nuclear microsatellite loci (FST < 0.001).
This study provides empirical evidence of eco-morphological differentiation occurring very quickly after the colonization of a new and vacant habitat. Exceptionally low levels of neutral genetic diversity and inference from coalescence indicates that the Midas cichlid population in Apoyeque is much younger (ca. 100 years or generations old) than the crater itself (ca. 1 800 years old). This suggests either that the crater remained empty for many hundreds of years after its formation or that remnant volcanic activity prevented the establishment of a stable fish population during the early life of the crater lake. Based on our findings of eco-morphological variation in the Apoyeque Midas cichlids, and known patterns of adaptation in Midas cichlids in general, we suggest that this population may be in a very early stage of speciation (incipient species), promoted by disruptive selection and ecological diversification.
PMCID: PMC2880021  PMID: 20459869
2.  Phylogeography, colonization and population history of the Midas cichlid species complex (Amphilophus spp.) in the Nicaraguan crater lakes 
Elucidation of the mechanisms driving speciation requires detailed knowledge about the phylogenetic relationships and phylogeography of the incipient species within their entire ranges as well as their colonization history. The Midas cichlid species complex Amphilophus spp. has been proven to be a powerful model system for the study of ecological specialization, sexual selection and the mechanisms of sympatric speciation. Here we present a comprehensive and integrative phylogeographic analysis of the complete Midas Cichlid species complex in Nicaragua (> 2000 individuals) covering the entire distributional range, using two types of molecular markers (the mitochondrial DNA control region and 15 microsatellites). We investigated the majority of known lake populations of this species complex and reconstructed their colonization history in order to distinguish between alternative speciation scenarios.
We found that the large lakes contain older and more diverse Midas Cichlid populations, while all crater lakes hold younger and genetically less variable species assemblages. The large lakes appear to have repeatedly acted as source populations for all crater lakes, and our data indicate that faunal exchange among crater lakes is extremely unlikely. Despite their very recent (often only a few thousand years old) and common origin from the two large Nicaraguan lakes, all crater lake Midas Cichlid radiations underwent independent, but parallel, evolution, and comprise distinct genetic units. Indeed several of these crater lakes contain multiple genetically distinct incipient species that most likely arose through sympatric speciation. Several crater lake radiations can be traced back to a single ancestral line, but some appear to have more than one founding lineage. The timing of the colonization(s) of each crater lake differs, although most of them occurred more (probably much more) recently than 20,000 years ago.
The genetic differentiation of the crater lake populations is directly related to the number of founding lineages, but independent of the timing of colonization. Interestingly, levels of phenotypic differentiation, and speciation events, appeared independent of both factors.
PMCID: PMC3087546  PMID: 20977752
3.  Sampling genetic diversity in the sympatrically and allopatrically speciating Midas cichlid species complex over a 16 year time series 
Speciation often occurs in complex or uncertain temporal and spatial contexts. Processes such as reinforcement, allopatric divergence, and assortative mating can proceed at different rates and with different strengths as populations diverge. The Central American Midas cichlid fish species complex is an important case study for understanding the processes of speciation. Previous analyses have demonstrated that allopatric processes led to species formation among the lakes of Nicaragua as well as sympatric speciation that is occurring within at least one crater lake. However, since speciation is an ongoing process and sampling genetic diversity of such lineages can be biased by collection scheme or random factors, it is important to evaluate the robustness of conclusions drawn on individual time samples.
In order to assess the validity and reliability of inferences based on different genetic samples, we have analyzed fish from several lakes in Nicaragua sampled at three different times over 16 years. In addition, this time series allows us to analyze the population genetic changes that have occurred between lakes, where allopatric speciation has operated, as well as between different species within lakes, some of which have originated by sympatric speciation. Focusing on commonly used genetic markers, we have analyzed both DNA sequences from the complete mitochondrial control region as well as nuclear DNA variation at ten microsatellite loci from these populations, sampled thrice in a 16 year time period, to develop a robust estimate of the population genetic history of these diversifying lineages.
The conclusions from previous work are well supported by our comprehensive analysis. In particular, we find that the genetic diversity of derived crater lake populations is lower than that of the source population regardless of when and how each population was sampled. Furthermore, changes in various estimates of genetic diversity within lakes are minimal and provide no evidence for drastic changes during the last 20 years, supporting the hypothesis that the processes which have resulted in rapid speciation are primarily historical. In contrast, there is some evidence for ongoing evolution, particularly selection, in all lakes except crater Lake Masaya, perhaps reflecting the persistence of speciational processes. Importantly, we find that the crater Lake Apoyo population, for which strong evidence of sympatric speciation has been demonstrated, has lower genetic diversity than other crater lakes and the strongest evidence for ongoing selection.
PMCID: PMC1819369  PMID: 17311680
4.  Incipient speciation in sympatric Nicaraguan crater lake cichlid fishes: sexual selection versus ecological diversification. 
The growing body of empirical evidence for sympatric speciation has been complemented by recent theoretical treatments that have identified evolutionary conditions conducive to speciation in sympatry. The Neotropical Midas cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellum) fits both of the key characteristics of these models, with strong assortative mating on the basis of a colour polymorphism coupled with trophic and ecological differentiation derived from a polymorphism in their pharyngeal jaws. We used microsatellite markers and a 480 bp fragment of the mitochondrial DNA control region to study four polymorphic populations of the Midas cichlid from three crater lakes and one large lake in Nicaragua in an investigation of incipient sympatric speciation. All populations were strongly genetically differentiated on the basis of geography. We identified strong genetic separation based on colour polymorphism for populations from Lake Nicaragua and one crater lake (Lake Apoyo), but failed to find significant genetic structuring based on trophic differences and ecological niche separation in any of the four populations studied. These data support the idea that sexual selection through assortative mating contributes more strongly or earlier during speciation in sympatry than ecological separation in these cichlids. The long-term persistence of divergent cichlid ecotypes (as measured by the percentage sequence divergence between populations) in Central American crater lakes, despite a lack of fixed genetic differentiation, differs strikingly from the patterns of extremely rapid speciation in the cichlids in Africa, including its crater lakes. It is unclear whether extrinsic environmental factors or intrinsic biological differences, e.g. in the degree of phenotypic plasticity, promote different mechanisms and thereby rates of speciation of cichlid fishes from the Old and New Worlds.
PMCID: PMC1690797  PMID: 11413624
5.  Crater lake cichlids individually specialize along the benthic–limnetic axis 
Ecology and Evolution  2014;4(7):1127-1139.
A common pattern of adaptive diversification in freshwater fishes is the repeated evolution of elongated open water (limnetic) species and high-bodied shore (benthic) species from generalist ancestors. Studies on phenotype-diet correlations have suggested that population-wide individual specialization occurs at an early evolutionary and ecological stage of divergence and niche partitioning. This variable restricted niche use across individuals can provide the raw material for earliest stages of sympatric divergence. We investigated variation in morphology and diet as well as their correlations along the benthic-limnetic axis in an extremely young Midas cichlid species, Amphilophus tolteca, endemic to the Nicaraguan crater lake Asososca Managua. We found that A. tolteca varied continuously in ecologically relevant traits such as body shape and lower pharyngeal jaw morphology. The correlation of these phenotypes with niche suggested that individuals are specialized along the benthic-limnetic axis. No genetic differentiation within the crater lake was detected based on genotypes from 13 microsatellite loci. Overall, we found that individual specialization in this young crater lake species encompasses the limnetic-as well as the benthic macro-habitat. Yet there is no evidence for any diversification within the species, making this a candidate system for studying what might be the early stages preceding sympatric divergence.
A common pattern of adaptive diversification in freshwater fishes is the repeated evolution of open water (limnetic) species and of shore (benthic) species. Individual specialization can reflect earliest stages of evolutionary and ecological divergence. We here demonstrate individual specialization along the benthic–limnetic axis in a young adaptive radiation of crater lake cichlid fishes.
PMCID: PMC3997327  PMID: 24772288
Benthic–limnetic axis; divergent selection; ecological opportunity; individual specialization; parallel evolution; phenotype-diet correlation
6.  Local variation and parallel evolution: morphological and genetic diversity across a species complex of neotropical crater lake cichlid fishes 
The polychromatic and trophically polymorphic Midas cichlid fish species complex (Amphilophus cf. citrinellus) is an excellent model system for studying the mechanisms of speciation and patterns of phenotypic diversification in allopatry and in sympatry. Here, we first review research to date on the species complex and the geological history of its habitat. We analyse body shape variation from all currently described species in the complex, sampled from six crater lakes (maximally 1.2–23.9 kyr old) and both great lakes in Nicaragua. We find that Midas cichlid populations in each lake have their own characteristic body shape. In lakes with multiple sympatric species of Midas cichlid, each species has a distinct body shape. Across the species complex, most body shape change relates to body depth, head, snout and mouth shape and caudal peduncle length. There is independent parallel evolution of an elongate limnetic species in at least two crater lakes. Mitochondrial genetic diversity is higher in crater lakes with multiple species. Midas cichlid species richness increases with the size and age of the crater lakes, though no such relationship exists for the other syntopic fishes. We suggest that crater lake Midas cichlids follow the predicted pattern of an adaptive radiation, with early divergence of each crater lake colonization, followed by intralacustrine diversification and speciation by ecological adaptation and sexual selection.
PMCID: PMC2871887  PMID: 20439280
geometric morphometrics; mitochondrial DNA genetic diversity; ecomorphology; limnology; Mesoamerica; adaptive radiation
7.  Genomics of adaptation and speciation in cichlid fishes: recent advances and analyses in African and Neotropical lineages 
Cichlid fishes are remarkably phenotypically diverse and species-rich. Therefore, they provide an exciting opportunity for the study of the genetics of adaptation and speciation by natural and sexual selection. Here, we review advances in the genomics and transcriptomics of cichlids, particularly regarding ecologically relevant differences in body shape, trophic apparatus, coloration and patterning, and sex determination. Research conducted so far has focused almost exclusively on African cichlids. To analyse genomic diversity and selection in a Neotropical radiation, we conducted a comparative transcriptomic analysis between sympatric, ecologically divergent crater-lake Midas cichlids (Lake Xiloá Amphilophus amarillo and Amphilophus sagittae). We pyrosequenced (Roche 454) expressed sequence tag (EST) libraries and generated more than 178 000 000 ESTs and identified nine ESTs under positive selection between these sister species (Ka/Ks > 1). None of these ESTs were found to be under selection in African cichlids. Of 11 candidate genes for ecomorphological differentiation in African cichlids, none showed signs of selection between A. amarillo and A. sagittae. Although more population-level studies are now needed to thoroughly document patterns of divergence during speciation of cichlids, available information so far suggests that adaptive phenotypic diversification in Neotropical and African cichlids may be evolving through non-parallel genetic bases.
PMCID: PMC3233715  PMID: 22201168
next-generation sequencing; cichlid fish; ecological speciation; coloration; body shape; expressed sequence tags
8.  A Hybrid Genetic Linkage Map of Two Ecologically and Morphologically Divergent Midas Cichlid Fishes (Amphilophus spp.) Obtained by Massively Parallel DNA Sequencing (ddRADSeq) 
G3: Genes|Genomes|Genetics  2013;3(1):65-74.
Cichlid fishes are an excellent model system for studying speciation and the formation of adaptive radiations because of their tremendous species richness and astonishing phenotypic diversity. Most research has focused on African rift lake fishes, although Neotropical cichlid species display much variability as well. Almost one dozen species of the Midas cichlid species complex (Amphilophus spp.) have been described so far and have formed repeated adaptive radiations in several Nicaraguan crater lakes. Here we apply double-digest restriction-site associated DNA sequencing to obtain a high-density linkage map of an interspecific cross between the benthic Amphilophus astorquii and the limnetic Amphilophus zaliosus, which are sympatric species endemic to Crater Lake Apoyo, Nicaragua. A total of 755 RAD markers were genotyped in 343 F2 hybrids. The map resolved 25 linkage groups and spans a total distance of 1427 cM with an average marker spacing distance of 1.95 cM, almost matching the total number of chromosomes (n = 24) in these species. Regions of segregation distortion were identified in five linkage groups. Based on the pedigree of parents to F2 offspring, we calculated a genome-wide mutation rate of 6.6 × 10−8 mutations per nucleotide per generation. This genetic map will facilitate the mapping of ecomorphologically relevant adaptive traits in the repeated phenotypes that evolved within the Midas cichlid lineage and, as the first linkage map of a Neotropical cichlid, facilitate comparative genomic analyses between African cichlids, Neotropical cichlids and other teleost fishes.
PMCID: PMC3538344  PMID: 23316439
Midas cichlid; double-digest RADSeq; synteny; segregation distortion; RAD markers; mutation rate
9.  Reticulate sympatric speciation in Cameroonian crater lake cichlids 
Traditionally the rapid origin of megadiverse species flocks of extremely closely related species is explained by the combinatory action of three factors: Disruptive natural selection, disruptive sexual selection and partial isolation by distance. However, recent empirical data and theoretical advances suggest that the diversity of complex species assemblages is based at least partially on the hybridization of numerous ancestral allopatric lineages that formed hybrids upon invasion of new environments. That reticulate speciation within species flocks may occur under sympatric conditions after the primary formation of species has been proposed but not been tested critically.
We reconstructed the phylogeny of a complex cichlid species flock confined to the tiny Cameroonian crater lake Barombi Mbo using both mitochondrial and nuclear (AFLP) data. The nuclear phylogeny confirms previous findings which suggested the monophyly and sympatric origin of the flock. However, discordant intra-flock phylogenies reconstructed from mitochondrial and nuclear data suggest strongly that secondary hybridization among lineages that primarily diverged under sympatric conditions had occurred. Using canonical phylogenetic ordination and tree-based tests we infer that hybridization of two ancient lineages resulted in the formation of a new and ecologically highly distinct species, Pungu maclareni.
Our findings show that sympatric hybrid speciation is able to contribute significantly to the evolution of complex species assemblages even without the prior formation of hybrids derived from allopatrically differentiated lineages.
PMCID: PMC544937  PMID: 15679917
10.  Parallel evolution in Ugandan crater lakes: repeated evolution of limnetic body shapes in haplochromine cichlid fish 
BMC Evolutionary Biology  2015;15(1):9.
The enormous diversity found in East African cichlid fishes in terms of morphology, coloration, and behavior have made them a model for the study of speciation and adaptive evolution. In particular, haplochromine cichlids, by far the most species-rich lineage of cichlids, are a well-known textbook example for parallel evolution. Southwestern Uganda is an area of high tectonic activity, and is home to numerous crater lakes. Many Ugandan crater lakes were colonized, apparently independently, by a single lineage of haplochromine cichlids. Thereby, this system could be considered a natural experiment in which one can study the interaction between geographical isolation and natural selection promoting phenotypic diversification.
We sampled 13 crater lakes and six potentially-ancestral older lakes and, using both mitochondrial and microsatellite markers, discovered strong genetic and morphological differentiation whereby (a) geographically close lakes tend to be genetically more similar and (b) three different geographic areas seem to have been colonized by three independent waves of colonization from the same source population. Using a geometric morphometric approach, we found that body shape elongation (i.e. a limnetic morphology) evolved repeatedly from the ancestral deeper-bodied benthic morphology in the clear and deep crater lake habitats.
A pattern of strong genetic and morphological differentiation was observed in the Ugandan crater lakes. Our data suggest that body shape changes have repeatedly evolved into a more limnetic-like form in several Ugandan crater lakes after independent waves of colonization from the same source population. The observed morphological changes in crater lake cichlids are likely to result from a common selective regime.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12862-015-0287-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4322459  PMID: 25648727
Parallel evolution; Benthic-limnetic; Speciation
11.  Inheritance of female mating preference in a sympatric sibling species pair of Lake Victoria cichlids: implications for speciation 
Female mate choice has often been proposed to play an important role in cases of rapid speciation, in particular in the explosively evolved haplochromine cichlid species flocks of the Great Lakes of East Africa. Little, if anything, is known in cichlid radiations about the heritability of female mating preferences. Entirely sympatric distribution, large ecological overlap and conspicuous differences in male nuptial coloration, and female preferences for these, make the sister species Pundamilia pundamilia and P. nyererei from Lake Victoria an ideally suited species pair to test assumptions on the genetics of mating preferences made in models of sympatric speciation. Female mate choice is necessary and sufficient to maintain reproductive isolation between these species, and it is perhaps not unlikely therefore, that female mate choice has been important during speciation. A prerequisite for this, which had remained untested in African cichlid fish, is that variation in female mating preferences is heritable. We investigated mating preferences of females of these sister species and their hybrids to test this assumption of most sympatric speciation models, and to further test the assumption of some models of sympatric speciation by sexual selection that female preference is a single-gene trait. We find that the differences in female mating preferences between the sister species are heritable, possibly with quite high heritabilities, and that few but probably more than one genetic loci contribute to this behavioural speciation trait with no apparent dominance. We discuss these results in the light of speciation models and the debate about the explosive radiation of cichlid fishes in Lake Victoria.
PMCID: PMC1634962  PMID: 15705547
cichlid fish; genetics of reproductive isolation; female mating preference; Lake Victoria; sexual selection; sympatric speciation
12.  The Adaptive Radiation of Cichlid Fish in Lake Tanganyika: A Morphological Perspective 
Lake Tanganyika is the oldest of the Great Ancient Lakes in the East Africa. This lake harbours about 250 species of cichlid fish, which are highly diverse in terms of morphology, behaviour, and ecology. Lake Tanganyika's cichlid diversity has evolved through explosive speciation and is treated as a textbook example of adaptive radiation, the rapid differentiation of a single ancestor into an array of species that differ in traits used to exploit their environments and resources. To elucidate the processes and mechanisms underlying the rapid speciation and adaptive radiation of Lake Tanganyika's cichlid species assemblage it is important to integrate evidence from several lines of research. Great efforts have been, are, and certainly will be taken to solve the mystery of how so many cichlid species evolved in so little time. In the present review, we summarize morphological studies that relate to the adaptive radiation of Lake Tanganyika's cichlids and highlight their importance for understanding the process of adaptive radiation.
PMCID: PMC3119568  PMID: 21716857
13.  African cichlid fish: a model system in adaptive radiation research 
The African cichlid fish radiations are the most diverse extant animal radiations and provide a unique system to test predictions of speciation and adaptive radiation theory. The past few years have seen major advances in the phylogenetics, evolutionary biogeography and ecology of cichlid fish. Most of this work has concentrated on the most diverse radiations. Unfortunately, a large number of small radiations and ‘non-radiations’ have been overlooked, potentially limiting the contribution of the cichlid system to our understanding of speciation and adaptive radiation. I have reviewed the literature to identify 33 intralacustrine radiations and 76 failed radiations. For as many as possible I collected information on lake size, age and phylogenetic relationships. I use these data to address two questions: (i) whether the rate of speciation and the resulting species richness are related to temporal and spatial variation in ecological opportunity and (ii) whether the likelihood of undergoing adaptive radiation is similar for different African cichlid lineages. The former is a key prediction of the ecological theory of adaptive radiation that has been presumed true but remains untested for cichlid radiations. The second is based on the hypothesis that the propensity of cichlids to radiate is due to a key evolutionary innovation shared by all African cichlids. The evidence suggests that speciation rate declines through time as niches get filled up during adaptive radiation: young radiations and early stages of old radiations are characterized by high rates of speciation, whereas at least 0.5 Myr into a radiation speciation becomes a lot less frequent. The number of species in cichlid radiations increases with lake size, supporting the prediction that species diversity increases with habitat heterogeneity, but also with opportunity for isolation by distance. Finally, the data suggest that the propensity to radiate within lakes is a derived property that evolved during the evolutionary history of some African cichlids, and the appearance of which does not coincide with the appearance of proposed key innovations in morphology and life history.
PMCID: PMC1635482  PMID: 16846905
adaptive radiation; cichlids; ecological speciation; sexual selection; key innovations; species–area relationship
14.  The Gut Microbial Community of Midas Cichlid Fish in Repeatedly Evolved Limnetic-Benthic Species Pairs 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e95027.
Gut bacterial communities are now known to influence a range of fitness related aspects of organisms. But how different the microbial community is in closely related species, and if these differences can be interpreted as adaptive is still unclear. In this study we compared microbial communities in two sets of closely related sympatric crater lake cichlid fish species pairs that show similar adaptations along the limnetic-benthic axis. The gut microbial community composition differs in the species pair inhabiting the older of two crater lakes. One major difference, relative to other fish, is that in these cichlids that live in hypersaline crater lakes, the microbial community is largely made up of Oceanospirillales (52.28%) which are halotolerant or halophilic bacteria. This analysis opens up further avenues to identify candidate symbiotic or co-evolved bacteria playing a role in adaptation to similar diets and life-styles or even have a role in speciation. Future functional and phylosymbiotic analyses might help to address these issues.
PMCID: PMC3986361  PMID: 24733403
15.  Adaptive phenotypic plasticity in the Midas cichlid fish pharyngeal jaw and its relevance in adaptive radiation 
Phenotypic evolution and its role in the diversification of organisms is a central topic in evolutionary biology. A neglected factor during the modern evolutionary synthesis, adaptive phenotypic plasticity, more recently attracted the attention of many evolutionary biologists and is now recognized as an important ingredient in both population persistence and diversification. The traits and directions in which an ancestral source population displays phenotypic plasticity might partly determine the trajectories in morphospace, which are accessible for an adaptive radiation, starting from the colonization of a novel environment. In the case of repeated colonizations of similar environments from the same source population this "flexible stem" hypothesis predicts similar phenotypes to arise in repeated subsequent radiations. The Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus spp.) in Nicaragua has radiated in parallel in several crater-lakes seeded by populations originating from the Nicaraguan Great Lakes. Here, we tested phenotypic plasticity in the pharyngeal jaw of Midas Cichlids. The pharyngeal jaw apparatus of cichlids, a second set of jaws functionally decoupled from the oral ones, is known to mediate ecological specialization and often differs strongly between sister-species.
We performed a common garden experiment raising three groups of Midas cichlids on food differing in hardness and calcium content. Analyzing the lower pharyngeal jaw-bones we find significant differences between diet groups qualitatively resembling the differences found between specialized species. Observed differences in pharyngeal jaw expression between groups were attributable to the diet's mechanical resistance, whereas surplus calcium in the diet was not found to be of importance.
The pharyngeal jaw apparatus of Midas Cichlids can be expressed plastically if stimulated mechanically during feeding. Since this trait is commonly differentiated - among other traits - between Midas Cichlid species, its plasticity might be an important factor in Midas Cichlid speciation. The prevalence of pharyngeal jaw differentiation across the Cichlidae further suggests that adaptive phenotypic plasticity in this trait could play an important role in cichlid speciation in general. We discuss several possibilities how the adaptive radiation of Midas Cichlids might have been influenced in this respect.
PMCID: PMC3103464  PMID: 21529367
16.  Crater Lake Apoyo Revisited - Population Genetics of an Emerging Species Flock 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e74901.
The polytypic Nicaraguan Midas cichlids (Amphilophus cf. citrinellus) have been established as a model system for studying the mechanisms of speciation and patterns of diversification in allopatry and sympatry. The species assemblage in Crater Lake Apoyo has been accepted as a textbook example for sympatric speciation. Here, we present a first comprehensive data set of population genetic (mtDNA & AFLPs) proxies of species level differentiation for a representative set of individuals of all six endemic Amphilophus species occurring in Crater Lake Apoyo. AFLP genetic differentiation was partitioned into a neutral and non-neutral component based on outlier-loci detection approaches, and patterns of species divergence were explored with Bayesian clustering methods. Substantial levels of admixture between species were detected, indicating different levels of reproductive isolation between the six species. Analysis of neutral genetic variation revealed several A. zaliosus as being introgressed by an unknown contributor, hereby rendering the sympatrically evolving L. Apoyo flock polyphyletic. This is contrasted by the mtDNA analysis delivering a clear monophyly signal with Crater Lake Apoyo private haplotypes characterising all six described species, but also demonstrating different demographic histories as inferred from pairwise mismatch distributions.
PMCID: PMC3781112  PMID: 24086393
17.  Evolution of body shape in sympatric versus non-sympatric Tropheus populations of Lake Tanganyika 
Heredity  2013;112(2):89-98.
Allopatric speciation often yields ecologically equivalent sister species, so that their secondary admixis enforces competition. The shores of Lake Tanganyika harbor about 120 distinct populations of the cichlid genus Tropheus, but only some are sympatric. When alone, Tropheus occupies a relatively broad depth zone, but in sympatry, fish segregate by depth. To assess the effects of competition, we studied the partial co-occurrence of Tropheus moorii ‘Kaiser' and ‘Kirschfleck' with Tropheus polli. A previous study demonstrated via standardized breeding experiments that some observed differences between Tropheus ‘Kaiser' living alone and in sympatry with T. polli have a genetic basis despite large-scale phenotypic plasticity. Using geometric morphometrics and neutral genetic markers, we now investigated whether sympatric populations differ consistently in body shape from populations living alone and if the differences are adaptive. We found significant differences in mean shape between non-sympatric and sympatric populations, whereas all sympatric populations of both color morphs clustered together in shape space. Sympatric populations had a relatively smaller head, smaller eyes and a more anterior insertion of the pectoral fin than non-sympatric populations. Genetically, however, non-sympatric and sympatric ‘Kaiser' populations clustered together to the exclusion of ‘Kirschfleck'. Genetic distances, but not morphological distances, were correlated with geographic distances. Within- and between-population covariance matrices for T. moorii populations deviated from proportionality. It is thus likely that natural selection acts on both phenotypic plasticity and heritable traits and that both factors contribute to the observed shape differences. The consistency of the pattern in five populations suggests ecological character displacement.
PMCID: PMC3907092  PMID: 24065182
geometric morphometrics; shape variation; cichlid fishes;  Tropheus moorii ;  Tropheus polli
18.  Shifts in morphology and diet of non-native sticklebacks introduced into Japanese crater lakes 
Ecology and Evolution  2012;2(6):1083-1098.
An increasing number of exotic animals are causing ecological problems. Therefore, for better ecosystem management, it is important to understand how exotic species colonize and adapt to novel environments. The threespine sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus) can be a good vertebrate model system to explore the ecological and genetic mechanisms of adaptation not only in natural populations, but also in non-native populations. Although morphological changes have been documented in several introduced populations of stickleback, little is known about the dietary changes during colonization into novel environments. Here, we investigated the morphological and dietary changes of exotic threespine stickleback populations introduced into three Japanese crater lakes (Lake Towada, Lake Kussharo, and Lake Shikotsu). Sticklebacks were introduced into the crater lakes likely along with salmonids transplanted for aquaculture. The stickleback population in Lake Kussharo had multiple mitochondrial haplotypes and had larger phenotypic variances than other crater lake stickleback populations that had only one mitochondrial haplotype. Compilation of historical data on the morphology and stomach contents of the Lake Towada stickleback population showed that substantial shifts in body size and stomach contents occurred after colonization. Some of these changes may be related to an outbreak of the Schistocephalus parasite. These results suggest that sticklebacks can change their morphology and trophic ecology when they colonize novel environments. Therefore, extreme care should be taken when salmonids are transported between watersheds for aquaculture and that long-term monitoring of exotic species is essential for ecosystem management. In addition, further genetic studies on phenotypic changes in crater lake sticklebacks would help elucidate the genetic mechanisms underlying the adaptation of exotic fishes to novel environments.
PMCID: PMC3402186  PMID: 22833786
Adaptation; anthropogenic; caldera; contemporary evolution; fisheries; invasive; rapid evolution
19.  Rapid speciation in a newly opened postglacial marine environment, the Baltic Sea 
Theory predicts that speciation can be quite rapid. Previous examples comprise a wide range of organisms such as sockeye salmon, polyploid hybrid plants, fruit flies and cichlid fishes. However, few studies have shown natural examples of rapid evolution giving rise to new species in marine environments.
Using microsatellite markers, we show the evolution of a new species of brown macroalga (Fucus radicans) in the Baltic Sea in the last 400 years, well after the formation of this brackish water body ~8–10 thousand years ago. Sympatric individuals of F. radicans and F. vesiculosus (bladder wrack) show significant reproductive isolation. Fucus radicans, which is endemic to the Baltic, is most closely related to Baltic Sea F. vesiculosus among north Atlantic populations, supporting the hypothesis of a recent divergence. Fucus radicans exhibits considerable clonal reproduction, probably induced by the extreme conditions of the Baltic. This reproductive mode is likely to have facilitated the rapid foundation of the new taxon.
This study represents an unparalleled example of rapid speciation in a species-poor open marine ecosystem and highlights the importance of increasing our understanding on the role of these habitats in species formation. This observation also challenges presumptions that rapid speciation takes place only in hybrid plants or in relatively confined geographical places such as postglacial or crater lakes, oceanic islands or rivers.
PMCID: PMC2674422  PMID: 19335884
20.  Ancient lakes as evolutionary reservoirs: evidence from the thalassoid gastropods of Lake Tanganyika. 
Ancient lakes are often collectively viewed as evolutionary hot spots of diversification. East Africa's Lake Tanganyika has long been the subject of scientific interest owing to dramatic levels of endemism in species as diverse as cichlid fishes, paludomid gastropods, decapod and ostracod crustaceans and poriferans. It is the largest and deepest of the African rift lakes, and its endemic fauna has been presented with a stable inland environment for over 10 Myr, offering unique opportunities for within-lake diversification. Although astonishing diversification has been documented in the endemic cichlid fauna of the lake, similar patterns of rapid diversification have long been assumed for other groups. In contrast to this hypothesis of rapid speciation, we show here that there has been no acceleration in the rate of speciation in the thalassoid gastropods of the lake following lake colonization. While limited within-lake speciation has occurred, the dramatic conchological diversity of gastropods presently found within the lake has evolved from at least four major lineages that pre-date its formation by as much as 40 Myr. At the same time, a widespread group of African gastropods appears to have evolved from taxa presently found in the lake. While Lake Tanganyika has been a cradle of speciation for cichlid fishes, it has also been an important evolutionary reservoir of gastropod lineages that have been extirpated outside the basin.
PMCID: PMC1691625  PMID: 15129964
21.  Genetic population structure of sympatric and allopatric populations of Baltic ciscoes (Coregonus albula complex, Teleostei, Coregonidae) 
Teleost fishes of the Coregonidae are good model systems for studying postglacial evolution, adaptive radiation and ecological speciation. Of particular interest is whether the repeated occurrence of sympatric species pairs results from in-situ divergence from a single lineage or from multiple invasions of one or more different lineages. Here, we analysed the genetic structure of Baltic ciscoes (Coregonus albula complex), examining 271 individuals from 8 lakes in northern Germany using 1244 polymorphic AFLP loci. Six lakes had only one population of C. albula while the remaining two lakes had C. albula as well as a sympatric species (C. lucinensis or C. fontanae).
AFLP demonstrated a significant population structure (Bayesian θB = 0.22). Lower differentiation between allopatric (θB = 0.028) than sympatric (0.063-0.083) populations contradicts the hypothesis of a sympatric origin of taxa, and there was little evidence for stocking or ongoing hybridization. Genome scans found only three loci that appeared to be under selection in both sympatric population pairs, suggesting a low probability of similar mechanisms of ecological segregation. However, removal of all non-neutral loci decreased the genetic distance between sympatric pairs, suggesting recent adaptive divergence at a few loci. Sympatric pairs in the two lakes were genetically distinct from the six other C. albula populations, suggesting introgression from another lineage may have influenced these two lakes. This was supported by an analysis of isolation-by-distance, where the drift-gene flow equilibrium observed among allopatric populations was disrupted when the sympatric pairs were included.
While the population genetic data alone can not unambiguously uncover the mode of speciation, our data indicate that multiple lineages may be responsible for the complex patterns typically observed in Coregonus. Relative differences within and among lakes raises the possibility that multiple lineages may be present in northern Germany, thus understanding the postglacial evolution and speciation in the C. albula complex requires a large-scale phylogenetic analysis of several potential founder lineages.
PMCID: PMC2853541  PMID: 20350300
22.  Introduced Predator Elicits Deficient Brood Defence Behaviour in a Crater Lake Fish 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(1):e30064.
Introduced species represent one of the most serious global threats to biodiversity. In this field-based study, we assessed behavioural responses of brood tending cichlid fish to an invasive predator of their offspring. This was achieved by comparing parental defence responses of the endangered arrow cichlid (Amphilophus zaliosus), a fish species endemic to the crater lake Apoyo in Nicaragua, towards the bigmouth sleeper (Gobiomorus dormitor), a formidable predator of cichlid fry, and all other potential fish predators of offspring. The bigmouth sleeper was recently introduced into Apoyo but naturally co-exists with cichlids in a few other Nicaraguan lakes. Arrow cichlid parents allowed bigmouth sleepers to advance much closer to their fry than other predators before initiating aggressive brood defence behaviours. Interestingly, parents of a very closely related species, A. sagittae, which has coevolved with bigmouth sleepers in crater lake Xiloá, reacted to approaching bigmouth sleepers at comparable distances as to other predators of cichlid fry. These results provide a novel demonstration of the specific mechanism (i.e. naive parental behaviour) by which invasive predators may negatively affect species that lack the adequate behavioural repertoire.
PMCID: PMC3253807  PMID: 22253881
23.  Comparative analysis reveals signatures of differentiation amid genomic polymorphism in Lake Malawi cichlids 
Genome Biology  2008;9(7):R113.
Low coverage survey sequencing shows that although Lake Malawi cichlids are phenotypically and behaviorally diverse, they appear genetically like a subdivided population.
Cichlid fish from East Africa are remarkable for phenotypic and behavioral diversity on a backdrop of genomic similarity. In 2006, the Joint Genome Institute completed low coverage survey sequencing of the genomes of five phenotypically and ecologically diverse Lake Malawi species. We report a computational and comparative analysis of these data that provides insight into the mechanisms that make closely related species different from one another.
We produced assemblies for the five species ranging in aggregate length from 68 to 79 megabase pairs, identified putative orthologs for more than 12,000 human genes, and predicted more than 32,000 cross-species single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). Nucleotide diversity was lower than that found among laboratory strains of the zebrafish. We collected around 36,000 genotypes to validate a subset of SNPs within and among populations and across multiple individuals of about 75 Lake Malawi species. Notably, there were no fixed differences observed between focal species nor between major lineages. Roughly 3% to 5% of loci surveyed are statistical outliers for genetic differentiation (FST) within species, between species, and between major lineages. Outliers for FST are candidate genes that may have experienced a history of natural selection in the Malawi lineage.
We present a novel genome sequencing strategy, which is useful when evolutionary diversity is the question of interest. Lake Malawi cichlids are phenotypically and behaviorally diverse, but they appear genetically like a subdivided population. The unique structure of Lake Malawl cichlid genomes should facilitate conceptually new experiments, employing SNPs to identity genotype-phenotype association, using the entire species flock as a mapping panel.
PMCID: PMC2530870  PMID: 18616806
24.  Patterns in fish radiation are compatible with Pleistocene desiccation of Lake Victoria and 14,600 year history for its cichlid species flock. 
Geophysical data are currently being interpreted as evidence for a late Pleistocene desiccation of Lake Victoria and its refilling 14,600 years ago. This implies that between 500 and 1000 endemic cichlid fish species must have evolved in 14,600 years, the fastest large-scale species radiation known. A recent review concludes that biological evidence clearly rejects the postulated Pleistocene desiccation of the lake: a 14,600 year history would imply exceptionally high speciation rates across a range of unrelated fish taxa. To test this suggestion, I calculated speciation rates for all 41 phylogenetic lineages of fish in the lake. Except for one cichlid lineage, accepting a 14 600 year history does not require any speciation rates that fall outside the range observed in fishes in other young lakes around the world. The exceptional taxon is a lineage of haplochromine cichlids that is also known for its rapid speciation elsewhere. Moreover, since it is unknown how many founding species it has, it is not certain that its speciation rates are really outside the range observed in fishes in other young lakes. Fish speciation rates are generally faster in younger than in older lakes, and those in Lake Victoria, by far the largest of the young lakes of the world, are no exception. From the speciation rates and from biogeographical observations that Lake Victoria endemics, which lack close relatives within the lake basin, have such relatives in adjacent drainage systems that may have had Holocene connections to Lake Victoria, I conclude that the composition of the fish assemblage does not provide biological evidence against Pleistocene desiccation. It supports a hypothesis of recent colonization from outside the lake basin rather than survival of a diverse assemblage within the basin.
PMCID: PMC1690916  PMID: 11886641
25.  Evolution of a cichlid fish in a Lake Malawi satellite lake 
Allopatric divergence in peripheral habitats may lead to rapid evolution of populations with novel phenotypes. In this study we provide the first evidence that isolation in peripheral habitats may have played a critical role in generation of Lake Malawi's cichlid fish diversity. We show that Lake Chilingali, a satellite lake 11.5 km from the shore of Lake Malawi, contains a breeding population of Rhamphochromis, a predatory genus previously thought to be restricted to Lake Malawi and permanently connected water bodies. The Lake Chilingali population is the smallest known Rhamphochromis, has a unique male nuptial colour pattern and has significant differentiation in mitochondrial DNA from Lake Malawi species. In laboratory mate choice trials with a candidate sister population from Lake Malawi, females showed a strong tendency to mate assortatively indicating that they are incipient biological species. These data support the hypothesis that isolation and reconnection of peripheral habitats due to lake level changes have contributed to the generation of cichlid diversity within African lakes. Such cycles of habitat isolation and reconnection may also have been important in evolutionary diversification of numerous other abundant and wide-ranging aquatic organisms, such as marine fishes and invertebrates.
PMCID: PMC2287380  PMID: 17623644
peripatric speciation; adaptation; sexual selection; morphometrics; mitochondrial DNA; growth rates

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